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Andersen defenders, partners practice hostage negotiation

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Emily A. Bradley
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
The negotiator rubs the beads of sweat off his forehead. He knows this is bad.

"I want my cigars, car and $55,000 and nobody gets hurt," the hostage taker with whom he's been speaking on the phone for the past two hours yells. "If I don't see them soon, people are going to start getting hurt!"

All eyes in the room are on U.S. Army Special Agent Brandon Claridge, anticipating his response. He knows 15 people's lives are in his hands. He scans the faces in the room for encouragement, gathers his thoughts, takes a deep breath and begins to speak.

The 102nd Military Police special agent joined nearly two dozen other participants representing Andersen Air Force Base, U.S. Naval Criminal Investigation Service, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a two-week crisis hostage negotiation course. The class was conducted by Department of Defense-contracted trainers to enhance the island's ability to respond to a real-world hostage taker scenario, barricaded subjects and potential suicide circumstances.

"People who do this training can apply what they learned in their day-to-day jobs," said Deborah McMahon, Crisis Systems Management, LLC president and director of training. "The students will be better equipped to handle these stressful situations."

The two-part session, which takes place here every two years, is 60 hours of lecture and 20 hours of practical training based on real-world incidents. It ended in a scenario where students were required to put their minds to the test to preserve the lives of hostages and keep the hostage taker calm.

"What the negotiators want is a positive outcome," said Special Agent Joseph Sall, 19th Military Police Batallion, who role-played the hostage taker. "They have to figure out what to do in a very unpredictable, high-stress environment."

Each team was challenged to solve the puzzle with a squad leader, negotiator, backup negotiator and an intelligence official.

"It's a challenge trying to keep your cool when someone is yelling and making almost impossible demands," Claridge said. "Knowing that you are responsible for people's lives is frightening."

Once the students completed the lecture side of the course, it was time for them to demonstrate their new-found skills where Claridge found himself engaged with "Paco," played by Sall.

Claridge, attending to a task he hopes to never need to attempt in real life, delivers his statement to the hostage taker.

"Paco, I understand you're upset. I'm working on those things but I need you to relax; I'll get you two cigars in exchange for the mother and her child."

After a few moments, the hostage taker says, "I'll do that, but no one better get hurt! They are coming out the west door."

The trainers nod in encouragement; they know their successful in their efforts.

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